Since I have lived in Paris, France for about five years, my friend Chris Birks asked me to give him some tips about visiting Paris, France. As my list has grown, I thought more people can benefit from it. Hence, I'm sharing the list here. Enjoy Paris!
Here are some both *non*-touristic (& maybe some touristic) places to visit: You can check the exact locations in Google (that's what I will do, if I had to). Note: I don't know if you are vegetarian or non-alcoholic! But in France, you can't avoid meat and wine!
1. Berthillon: the best sherbet (sorbet) in France, soft frozen ice without the cream! just frozen fresh fruit juices. I guess only locals know this place. It's near Notre Dame Cathedral. My Facebook friend Jean-Paul Potet wrote: "The famous Berthillon pastry shop (pâtisserie) is on Île Saint Louis "Saint Louis Island" in the center of Paris. Île-de-France is not an island but the vast central region of France where Paris is."
2. Poilane: the best bread, baked in wood-fired oven. People fall in line even in winter to get a loaf of french bread (etc.). I guess only the locals know this.
3. Best French macaron (*not* coconut macaroon): in the cafe chez Carette near / across the street from the Trocadero. I guess only the locals know this. They come in different flavors, such as café, vanille, etc. French macaron are now starting to be fashionable in the U.S. But the U.S. version is very, very, very small. In fact, the nice café in Geneva, Illinois (your neighborhood) has this very, very, very small version! My friend Jean-Paul Potet wrote: "By the way, you can find macarons in a lot of pastry shops, and some are better than others. I think Ladurée has the most expensive ones."
4. There are open street markets in different parts of Paris on different days. Great way to shop for fresh produce, cheese, etc. You can ask to chop and buy a small/medium slice of cheese. I shop for cheese every week in the open market, among my favorites are emmenthal, Gruyère, tête de moine, and Roquefort.
5. Heart stopper: buy *butter* croissant, not regular croissant, for breakfast.
6. Heart stopper: have a butter brioche. There's a good bakery near Centre George Pompidou in Les Halles where you can buy a big butter brioche with a piece of sausage inside (if you are not vegetarian).
7. Only for the brave: try boudin, it's blood sausage. I guess the U.K. has some versions of this too.
8. For summer, order an ice-cold drink cold Menthe à l'eau. It's basically sweet mint drink.
9. Try to have an alcoholic drink (if you drink at all): it's called Kir. It knocked me down! It's basically wine wine mixed with a blackcurrant (or other) liqueur.
10. If you are not a vegetarian: try having Confit de canard. I loved that stuff. It's duck marinated in its own fat!!!
11. Taste rillete (pronounced rhee-yet), if you are not a vegetarian. It's ground pork pâté.
12. Of course, taste the regular liver pâté. But please boycott foie gras (liver pâté made from cruelly force-fed duck's liver).
13. My most favorite wine is Gewurtztraminer. It's a dry white wine which tastes like grapes!!!!!! It's *not* a dessert wine.
14. This is touristy: take a train ride to Versailles and maybe have a picnic there. It's less than one hour by train.
15. Trocadero has a cinema museum. It was the hotbed of radical youth during the late 1960s. Prominent intellectuals, film makers, and the young ones went to the cinema there. Note that the French say "cinema" not movies. Snob effect.
16. Best hot chocolate drink in Angelina
17. Taste marrons glacées: chesnut paste. It comes in a can or jar (grocery). J'adore! (I love it!).
18. If you feel cold at night, you can snobly order a "vin rouge chaud": warmed/hot red wine.
19. There are walking arcades. Non-touristy. Good to just take a promenade in these arcades, which are all over Paris.
20. A whole shop devoted only to men: Brummell (near all the other "grands magasins" such as Lafayette, etc.) not far from the Opera.
21. If you have time, get a cheap ticket and watch a show at the Opera. When I was a student there, I watched so many operas and ballets there, as with a student card, I got cheapo tickes in some of the best seats.
22. Try getting an international faculty card (your Study Abroad office there, BU) might make and sell you. If not, go to NIU's S.A. Office. You might get discounts here and there by flashing your faculty card. Check with them about the benefits of having one when travelling.
23. In general, you just *don't* tip in France and in Europe in general. Tip is added on your bill already. My friend Jean-Paul Potet wrote: "Do not confuse tip and service. Service is the waiter's salary. It is automatically included in the bill along with the TVA "VAT" tax. You have to pay these. We do not tip except when we request a special service, we find the waiter/waitress particularly nice, etc. In Prague, I was surprised that service was not included, and never knew exactly what to give."
24. If you read French, buy a Michelin Guidebook: the French guidebook, which describes things to see, eat, go, etc. and gives you an approximation of how cheap or expensive these things/places are. Michelin is highly reputed (more "local"/ European than "Lonely Planet" etc.).
25. I used to take the train to go to the Russian quarter to buy Russian baked goods, such as poppy seed pastry. I buy that in the Jewish quarter in Devon Avenue in Chicago! (Guide Michelin listed this).
26 Go to La Défense. It's just the next stop from the last subway stop in Paris. As you know, Paris is a well-planned city. There can be *no* building taller than the Eiffel Tower, except Montparnasse in Paris. Just right outside Paris is La Défense, where there are skyscrapers. It's Paris' answer to New York's high rise.
27. If you walk "behind" the touristic Moulin Rouge, you are already in the Arab quarter, feels like a totally different world.
28. Do you know that the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Monmartre was built as an apology for the shameful murder of the people in the Paris Commune?
29. Go to Pere-Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetiere du Père-Lachaise) and look for the grayevard of famous people, such as Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, Edith Piaf & Jim Morrison.
30. By the way, Montparnasse by itself is worth visiting. It's the only tallest building allowed inside Paris, plus both Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were both linked to this building. I believe they might have lived there.
31. Intellectuals go to the Rive Gauche (appropriately Left Bank). Ernest Hemingway, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir frequented both Café Flore and Café Deux Magots. Just sit there, order an espress (espresso), sip for hours, and feel the presence of these great authors. Parisians prefer to sit outdoors--second choice is by the window.
32. Since you will be on the Left Bank, go inside and walk through the courtyard and halls of the University of Paris-Sorbonne. I took French Civilization courses there (literature, grammar, history, geography, politics, business French, the works...). May 1968 was when the students, Jean Paul Sartre and others protested, occupying the courtyard of Sorbonne, etc., etc.
33. I believe I have hardly mentioned the cheesy, usual touristy sites. I leave those to you!!!
34. If you have more time, I suggest you rent a car and go out of Paris for a "long" drive. Note that France is a small country by U.S. standard and so you can go places as Americans drive all over the place in the U.S. Some places to consider are Valley of the Loire (where there is a high concentration of château), Champagne (guess what? to taste real Champage), Strasbourg (for the German-French food, architecture, and wine as well as one of the major cities for pan-European institutions),Mont Saint Michel (stay there overnight but you can't park your car there due to high tide)!
35. From Strasbourg, you can walk across the bridge and you will already be in Germany. I used to take the bus from Strasbourg to Germany to shop (Munster cheese and German radio!). I took summer classes in international human rights law there and did my internship at the Council of Europe and the European Youth Centre, both in Strasbourg.
36. If you want to go from Paris to Geneva, Switzerland (not Illinois!), it's just a 4-hour train ride by TGV train.
37. Catholics love to go to Lourdes down south for their pilgrimage. You are almost in Spain there! Basque culture.
38. Abélard was a very well know monk/teacher at the Notre Dame who wrote beautifl love letters, now compiled as a book called Abelard and Heloise. He lived near Notre Dame Cathedral and his residence is now a museum. It's a must-read book. For me, it's better than Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Check guidebooks on the exact location of his residence.
39. Latin Quarter: Go to the Panthéon. it's the "burial site" of famous people: Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Jean Moulin, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Louis Braille, Jean Jaurès, etc.
40. Latin Quarter: Have a nice stroll at the Luxembourg Gardens.
41. Latin Quarter: Try the cuisine of Greece and North Africa there. Many Greek, Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian (and Japanese) restaurants there.
42. Latin Quarter: Visit the statue of victorious Saint Michael slaying Satan there! Ok, this is touristy!
43. Jewelry shopping: Place Vendôme.
44. Haute couture shopping: Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. $$$$$
45. Walk along the banks of the Seine River: it's free! Many movies (both historical and current-day contexts) feature this place.
46. Best impressionist museum: Tuilleries.
47. In any city and country I go to, including Paris, I take one bus ride, going from the point where I first boarded, and let the bus go all its routes until it returns to the original point where I boarded the bus. In that way, I get a very cheap *non-touristic* view of a good stretch of the real city where "real" local folks live and work.
48. My friend Jean-Paul Potet wrote: "Some people believe the water of the Fontaine Lamartine, square Lamartine, 16th district, Paris, is a cure-all if not just miraculous."
49. Potet wrote: "The star on the ground in front of Notre-Dame is the official centre of Paris, kilometre zero from which distances to provincial cities are measured."
50. Potet wrote: "Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumonts is a very nice public garden, but the neighbourhood may not be all that nice."
51. Potet wrote: "In the Quartier Latin (thus called because students and professors spoke Latin in the Middle-Ages) there is a small Catholic church of some Oriental Greek rite (Saint Julien le Pauvre). In the yard there is a very old tree whose sapling was brought from Holy Land during the Crusades."
52. Potet wrote: "La Sainte Chapelle, on the compound of the Palais de Justice, ïle de la Cité, was built to house several relics, in particular the spear of Longinus, the Roman soldier in charge of giving Jesus the coup de grâce. Only the chapel remains."
53. Potet wrote: "If you go to les jardins du Luxembourg, imagine the huge jam party given in the palace by Cardinal Mazarin. The most prized was the ginger jam, a great novelty at that time. Making jams was regarded as a great art at par with pharmacy and chemistry."
54. Potet wrote: "Notre Dame has a beautiful Russian icon given some years ago by the late patriarch of Moscow. It is on the left when you face the altar."
55. Potet wrote: "On the left side of Notre Dame are some bas-reliefs, in particular one that shows the Virgin Mary's dormition."
56. Potet wrote: "For Muslims, the mosque (la Grande Mosquée de Paris), 6 rue Georges Desplas, in the 5th district, is a beautiful monument that was founded in 1926 when Algeria was French. There is also the famous Institut du Monde arabe that combines a museum with a library."
57. Potet wrote, recommending a restaurant: ". I like La Coupole, 102 boulevard du Montparnasse, Paris 14, but it costs about 35€ per person."
58. Jean-Paul Potet wrote: Sometimes one can have a very pleasant surprise in 4 or 5 star venues... in a posh rue de Rivoli restaurant in a hotel because they had a dinner at a very reasonable price for this category. It was excellent and the service was impeccable. Very good value for money. Unfortunately I don't remember which one it was..., and I am not sure this offer is renewed every year. Just in case have a look at their menus while passing there."
59. For breakfast or afternoon tea or coffee, have some pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant), a variety of petits fours, or pain aux raisins (raisin roll). You can find Gâteau Basque (pastry with a custard filling) in a bake shop in the 16th district (arrondissement). Delish!
60. The fancy "French" version of pork and beans is Cassoulet Basque, worth trying.
61. You can have the best *free* panoramic view of Paris from (1) Centre Georges Pompidou (Les Halles) and Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Sacred Heart Basilica).
Please feel free to add to this list. Thank you!